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REDUX – COMMENTARY: CNN’s Roland Martin on the Debate

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This bares repeating:

If I had been able to get through last night, I would have made a few points that were quickly passed over or not discussed.

1) On the $700 Billion deal. Neither candidate last night knew what the deal was after the House Republicans rebelled Thursday evening. The House Republican plan was not spelled out at the time of the debate. Everyone was still waiting anxiously with baited breath to find out what it was and how it would affect the financial markets and banks.

What I don’t understand is why, after a week of questioning Paulson and Bernanke in both the House and Senate chambers and much discussion in both committees, did the House Republicans wait until Thursday evening–a full week after Paulson told Congress–to make their displeasure with the plan known.

Okay, I understand that angry calls flooded their offices from people who failed to understand the resulting consequences of the ensuing credit crunch, but to wait a full week? What kind of Representatives are they that they had to wait until their constituents screamed bloody murder before they decided to look at another solution? Are they incapable of forethought? Where are their brains? Or is it all about getting re-elected? And Sen. Shelby’s attitude was even worse. He put political ideology well before reality. What kind of leader it that? Ideology before practical reality!?!

No one likes rescuing Wall Street or any bank to the tune of $700 Billion because of the greedy, slip shod way they ran their businesses. Nevertheless, main street–ordinary people–will get their money back when the securities are sold. But let’s get clear: without transparency and rules, bad guys will always invade financial markets. This premise is nothing new. It’s been done over and over again during the last 30 years as deregulation on the industry has been slashed.

Greedy people love investment banking which is why there have been more investment banker MBAs graduating school than Engineering or manufacturing graduate students. Another fact, most corporations are run by financial people than by people who understand manufacturing and sales. Wanna guess why?

Does Congress have to pass a rescue package immediately? Resolutely yes! If the pressure does not immediately ease in the credit market so that banks will lend to each other and the currently insolvent mortgage securities are not removed from the books, business will dry up. The bottom line is that people will loose their jobs and paychecks will cease to be issued.

In addition, according the FDIC, over a hundred banks currently are on the default list which means that they will go under in the near future unless something is done immediately. What will that mean? It means that this country will be left with four banks: B of A, CitiBank, Wells Fargo, and JP Morgan.

Those four banks will control rates, fees, and everything else having to do with consumer accounts. It means there will be no free market competition. An entire industry sector will be controlled by just four huge companies. So much for free market competition!

It ain’t pretty, but it is reality!

2) Social security and retirement and main street. First of all, I recently received my Social Security update notice. To my surprise, I cannot retire with full benefits until I’m 66–not 65. People who were born much later than I will not be able to retire with full benefits until much later.

Second, while the Social Security program needs attention, the biggest entitlement program is Medicare, in particular Medicare Part B. That program is the most outrageous budget buster of all time. Two things to remember about it: it was negotiated in secret by Cheney et al, supposedly with the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and passed by a thoroughly Republican Congress. The only way the Democrat minority could stop it was an ongoing and continuous filibuster…which they tried.

While senior citizens do need help with outrageously expensive medications, the existing program is, without a doubt, totally absurd and requires redesigning without the aggressive input and lobbying of pharmaceutical and insurance companies. For example, we don’t need to import drugs from Canada…we just need the same deal pharma companies give to Europe and Canada and Japan and Singapore. Why should hard working Americans financially support the pharma costs of other countries?

In other words, why should Americans pay for the price breaks given to these other countries? And why should Americans pay insurance premiums that net a 200% or so profit for health insurance companies. (Okay, I’m making up the percentage numbers, but industry profits really are outrageous. By the way, this is another industry run by financial guys!…and their main concern is showing high profits.)

John McCain’s ultimate goal, as he himself stated, is to eliminate employer provided health care benefits. He believes that each and every person and family should go out into the marketplace to purchase his/her own insurance. I’m sure he’s the darling of the health care insurance industry right now.

However, if his plan is enacted, people will see their health care costs increase significantly. Why? Because insurance companies base their rates on the size of the subscriber pool. In other words, the more people in the pool, the lower the financial risk. One person or one family does not provide a large enough pool to spread the risk among the paying members to keep costs from rising astronomically. I know because I’ve been there myself.

As a single business person, I’ve seen my health insurance costs rise from a payroll deduction of $1200/yr to over $7,000/yr as a sole payer. That’s a $5,800 difference just for one adult person. Imagine what the premiums would be for a family with children? Astronomical! Can you afford to see your health insurance premiums increase by as much as 60% or more?

Just one more note on this subject: 20,000 nurses from across the country marched across the Golden Gate Bridge this weekend in support of a single payer health care system. They said that the only way to reduce costs for industries as well as local and state governments and to provide quality care was to enact a single payer system. You think maybe nurses know a wee bit more about actual health care costs than Sen. McCain?

3) Foreign policy. I’ve only traveled to Ireland at the beginning of their economic rise. But what I saw while in Ireland was a major commitment to and investment in education. Irish leaders foresaw that the only way they could compete internationally was to have a highly educated workforce. So, they set about creating that workforce. Today, Ireland has one of the best economies in the world. While Ireland’s story is not necessarily indicative of a foreign policy, it does indicate the necessity of a strong, educated workforce.

Elsewise, how is America to compete with the rising power of Asia? India has dozens of universities that match MIT. China graduates dozens of engineers to each one of our own. If the U.S. is going to compete, as Silicon Valley execs have stated over and over again, we have to significantly improve our educational system, not just for the few rich who can afford the extraordinarily high costs of quality educations but for everyone who has the intelligence.

Does it make any sense that a middling rich kid, whose family supports the university, get in while a more intelligent kid from a much lower income family is denied? Who’s going to help the country more? Who has the greater potential to invent the next great technology? A nation’s long term security is based on the quality of its children’s education.

Regarding the foreign policy of the next few years, we have to envision the world as we want it to be and then determine how to achieve those goals. This is not 1960 or 1980. This is 2008. The world is different. We cannot continue to look at the world through the eyes of the cold war or through the lenses of Vietnam.

Our challenges are much greater. The world is looking at the U.S. to see if we will return to a policy of cooperation that always has been a hallmark of the citizenry of the U.S. and of a willingness to listen rather than dictate to other nations.

Without the willing cooperation of other nations, worldwide, we cannot succeed in our foreign policy. For most of the last eight years, our foreign policy has been “our way or the highway.” As a result, we have been left alone. Our approval rating internationally is in the low teens. While many may consider that okay, that low rating amongst other countries affects our ability to get anything done. It negatively affects our trade negotiations; negatively affects our ability to enlist the help of other nations on areas of vital concern; and negatively affects our ability to resolve conflicts.

What we say about Iran or Israel or Iraq or Afghanistan today is less important than our overall policy towards the rest of the world. We need an overall strategic plan for the future, one that incorporates all our diplomatic tools rather than just military ones. We need a foreign policy that invites other nations, even those whose regimes are not democratic, into discussions of events and circumstances which affect them too. We need cooperation rather than militancy. If nothing else has been learned over the last eight years it is that we neither have the military force or the fiscal resources to go it alone. Nor have we gained the support of the world’s countries in our quest because of what they see as “American Imperialism.”

Only negotiation and cooperation can change where we are right now. I do not believe that John McCain’s ideology…and those of his neo-con advisers…will bring about the cooperation and support we need from other countries and restore our reputation. John McCain’s foreign policy is seen through the lenses of Vietnam and as such denies building relationships, diplomacy, and negotiation to achieve our ultimate national security goals. I cannot say this strongly enough: John McCain’s foreign policy is an international risk this country cannot afford. He will be a warrior chief.

While not everything about Obama plans and policies suit everyone, including me, when I look at the alternative player in this political game, I have to go with Obama. Why? Because he thinks before he reacts. He asks questions and seeks alternative advise before coming to a conclusion.

We’re living in a dangerous world with severe challenges to our national interests and main street finances. We need someone to lead us who will regain our national prestige in the world; someone who envisions a better, more equitable future for everyone rather than a highly prosperous future for just a few big corporations and stockholders; and a renewed opportunity to succeed for even the least financially able.

From the time of Thomas Jefferson, our nation ideologically has been built upon the idea that whoever you were, or how much money your family had, you could succeed if you had the intelligence and the drive. That dream is under assault.

From the time of George Washington our foreign policy has been one of non-imperialism and cooperation…even to the point of isolationism…to keep our people safe. Those precepts are under assault. They’ve been under assault for eight years under the Bush Republican Administration.

John McCain will not change the policies that have caused Main Street to decay while the very rich enjoy another “Golden Age.” John McCain will not restore our standing in the world or change their perception that the U.S. is imperialistic.

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Written by Valerie Curl

September 29, 2008 at 12:33 AM

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